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Hughes Victorious In Atlantic Regional

Published: June 25, 2016 4:30 pm ET

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Jason Hughes held off Corey MacPherson with the most points over eight races to win the Atlantic Regional Driving Championship on Saturday, June 25 at Red Shores Racetrack & Casino at Charlottetown Driving Park. Both the winner and runner-up will advance to the National Driving Championship.

Hughes kicked off the eight-race driving tournament with a victory aboard Sam ($4) in the first leg and later won the sixth leg with Cambest Kisser ($4.70). The 43-year-old Stratford, P.E.I. horseman maintained his lead in the point standings throughout, with top-three finishes in four other legs.

The 27-year-old MacPherson, of Vernon Bridge, P.E.I., sat out the first leg, but also drove a pair of winners during the regional event, with his first coming aboard I Am Able ($7.20) in the fourth leg. MacPherson climbed to second-place in the point standings and scored an unexpected seventh leg victory with Whosurwinner ($18.50) to narrow the gap on Hughes, who had sat out that leg but managed to maintain a slight lead going into the final race of the competition (53-51).

Hughes secured his position atop the Atlantic Regional standings with a second-place finish aboard Spirit Of America in the eighth and final leg behind Bazillion ($14.40) and Ed Harvey while MacPherson and Waterside Light finished fifth after challenging first over.

Hughes ended with 62 points to clinch the Atlantic Regional Driving Championship title while MacPherson held second with 54 points. Marc Campbell, who had tied for the lead after his second leg win aboard P H Littlecam ($7.70), finished in a dead heat for third with Walter Cheverie, both with 41 points. Harvey (37), fellow leg winners Darren Crowe (33) and Paul Langille (30), and Gerard Kennedy (14) rounded out the competition.

"All of the horses raced good. We had lots of fun here tonight, all the guys," said Hughes. "It was very competitive."

It was a big day for Hughes, whose stable won a total of five races on the Saturday program, including the $5,000 Cecil Ladner Memorial Invitational Pace with OK Galahad ($13.80) in 1:54.4. The five-year-old Badlands Hanover gelding is owned by Hughes' brother Robi and Foxyhall Racing of Wallace, N.S.

Hughes and MacPherson will move on to the National Driving Championship, which will be held on October 14 at The Raceway at Western Fair District in London, Ont. The winner of the National Driving Championship will represent Canada in the 2017 World Driving Championship, which will be hosted in Canada.

They will face off with the top two point-earners from each of the four regional competitions. Ontario Regional Driving Championship winner James MacDonald, also a P.E.I. native, and runner-up Trevor Henry will join them from yesterday's competition, which was held at Grand River Raceway. The Western Regional will take place next at Century Downs Racetrack and Casino on Sunday, June 26 and the Quebec/Eastern Ontario Regional will be hosted by Hippodrome 3R on Tuesday, July 12.

OFFICIAL POINT TOTALS

1. Jason Hughes - 62
2. Corey MacPherson - 54
3. Marc Campbell - 41
3. Walter Cheverie - 41
5. Edward Harvey - 37
6. Darren Crowe - 33
7. Paul Langille - 30
8. Gerard Kennedy - 14

The Atlantic Regional Driving Championship consisted of races two and four through 10 on the Saturday program. Each of the eight participating drivers sat out for one race.

To view Saturday's harness racing results, click on the following link: Saturday Results - Charlottetown Driving Park.

RACE RECAPS

Leg 1: Jason Hughes kicked off the eight-race competition with a victory aboard his own trainee Sam ($4) in the first leg. Hughes sent the race favourite to the lead off the gate and kept first over challenger Rustlemewithenvy (Marc Campbell) at bay en route to the 1:58.3 victory. Early trailer Riverboat Dancer (Walter Cheverie) came on for third.

"It's a good way to get it started," said Hughes after the victory. "It's going to be a fun night. All the boys are excited for it."

Leg 2: Marc Campbell was victorious in the second leg as he moved P H Littlecam ($7.70) to the lead early on and cruised home in 2:00.1. Hughes was the runner-up with the late-closing My Uncle Pete while Caughtfoolinaround (Paul Langille) finished third.

"She raced good. I just kind of let her get away and spring to the front and tried to get away on them a little bit around the turn to give myself a little extra room," explained Campbell, who tied Hughes for the top spot in the point standings with the winning effort.

Leg 3: Darren Crowe pulled off a 16-1 upset victory in the third leg as he protected his rail position off the gate with Sanchez Blue Chip ($34.90) and went wire-to-wire in 1:57.3 as the longest shot on the board. Favourite Beaus Cowboy (Cheverie) followed cover before dropping in the pocket and chasing the winner home in second-place. Shock The Rock (Corey MacPherson) and Celebrate Your Bet (Hughes) finished third in a dead heat.

"She [owner/trainer Deanna Clow] told me he's a little steppy and he was, but he was good. Big trip," commented Crowe, who moved into third-place on the leaderboard behind front-runner Hughes and runner-up Campbell.

Leg 4: Corey MacPherson prevailed in a photo finish aboard the pocket-pulling I Am Able ($7.20) in the fourth leg. They tipped out near the third quarter mark and collared the popular pacesetter Beckenbauer, driven by point-leader Hughes, at the wire in 1:58.1. Cloudy Bay (Campbell) finished third off a ground-saving trip.

"He raced good. He's kind of an aggressive horse. I had to move him early, but it worked," noted MacPherson.

Leg 5: Paul Langille scored his first victory of the competition in the fifth leg with C J Bluefin ($21.20) prevailing in a photo finish. They only had the breaker beat early on, but moved up second over and closed through the passing lane in the stretch to collar the gritty Gramercy Hanover (Ed Harvey), who was parked for most of the mile before taking the lead into the final turn. Useful Hanover (MacPherson) finished third.

"It feels real good [to be apart of the Atlantic Regional Driving Championship]. It's an even better feeling getting a win now," said Langille.

Leg 6: Hughes struck again in the sixth leg with his own trainee Cambest Kisser ($4.70) romping to a 1:57 victory as the race favourite over Swingirl (MacPherson) and Perfect Escape (Harvey).

"Things are going pretty good right now," said Hughes after his second Regional victory and fourth winning drive on the day. "I hope to continue it on."

Leg 7: MacPherson was a repeat winner in the tournament after making a big four-wide move with Whosurwinner ($18.50) from second-to-last down the backstretch in the seventh leg. They prevailed in a final quarter dash to the wire in 1:57.4 over favourite Smiley Bayama (Cheverie) and Woodmere No Fool (Crowe).

"I didn't think this horse would win, but the trip worked out and we're here," said MacPherson in the winner's circle. "The horse on front [Mcjestic and Campbell], I knew if they tortured him a little bit, he'd pack it in. Smiley Bayama, I thought he'd jog, but he was in bad traffic so it worked for me."

MacPherson moved into second-place in the regional point standings behind Hughes, who maintained his lead (53-51) despite it being his turn to sit out of a competition leg.

Leg 8: Ed Harvey won the eighth and final leg as he crossed to command from the outside post with Bazillion ($14.40) and led from start to finish in 1:58.1. Spirit Of America followed off a two-hole trip in second to help Hughes secure the top spot in the Atlantic Regional point standings over MacPherson, who finished fifth after challenging first over with Waterside Light. Bowyer Hanover (Cheverie) followed in third.

"It's kind of nice to come over here and drive with all these drivers. It's an honour," said the New Brunswick reinsman. "They said he [Bazillion] could get off the car a little bit so I thought I'd try him."

SCORING

The Regional Driving Championships and the National Driving Championship will adapt the point system utilized in the World Driving Championship. Points will be awarded on the order of finish as follows:

Number of Starters: 7
14 (1), 9 (2), 6 (3), 4 (4), 3 (5), 2 (6), 1 (7)

Number of Starters: 6
13 (1), 8 (2), 5 (3), 3 (4), 2 (5), 1 (6)

Number of Starters: 5
12 (1), 7 (2), 4 (3), 2 (4), 1 (5)

In the event of a scratch, the driving rep drawn to a horse shall drive the ‘also eligible’ horse.

In the event of a horse being scratched or where no horse is available, four (4) points (if six starters) or three (3) points (if five starters) shall be awarded to the driver(s) concerned. If a horse is disqualified or a horse and driver fail to complete the race, they will receive one (1) point.

In the event of a dead heat for any placing in any race, the points for the horses involved will be added together and divided equally among the drivers concerned (for example, if there’s a dead heat for third between two horses, the points for third and fourth-place will be added and divided among the drivers).


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